Travel Policies: Who Needs One and What to Include

Travel policies, the bibles of a company’s travel program, are more important than you think for saving time, money, and ensuring traveller safety. We take a look at travel policies and why you absolutely need to have one.

What is a travel policy?

Travel policies are documents that outline the different variables of travel and guide the booker or traveller to make decisions for bookings and expense reporting. They must be aligned to the culture and objectives of the business as well as the different people involved in the process: traveller, travel booker, management.

“Simply put, a travel policy is a set of guidelines for business travel. The purpose is to ensure all bookings are made with the business interests in mind. I.e. Making sure one does not book the penthouse or presidential suite for a domestic trip to Sydney for one night. It’s about making cost-effective decisions for the business while considering the health and wellbeing of the traveller.”

Jaclyn Reynolds, General Manager NSW/ACT at Corporate Traveller

What are the benefits of a travel policy?

A travel policy is necessary for any company with travelling employees. There are a range of benefits to having a travel policy, not just for the business but also the traveller.

Keeps travellers safe

A travel policy is not just about the company. It also serves the purpose of keeping the traveller safe. Companies have a Duty of Care to their travelling employees to ensure their health and safety. It outlines essential details like travel insurance, different flight classes for long-haul flights for the traveller's wellbeing, and even stipulations like travellers must take taxis late at night and avoid public transport.

Saves the company money

You’re heading off on a work trip, and although it might be tempting to travel like a star, your company will have a bottom-line to consider. Travel policies outline key items like expected costs for accommodation (you don’t need the presidential suite – unless you’re Oprah), flight costs, and preferred methods of transport. It sets limits so that travellers don’t send the company broke.

Streamlines the process

Imagine if you had to check with your manager at every stage of booking your business trip. Can I book this flight? Is this too expensive? Can I pick the closer hotel that’s more expensive? Am I allowed to Uber to the office? Can I expense claim my parking at the airport?

Although it might seem like a day-trip to Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane can’t be that complicated, it’s not just about booking a flight and heading off. There are a number of questions that need to be answered about what the traveller can and can’t do, what they can and can’t book. A travel policy aims to answer all of those questions before anyone asks, to ensure there’s a guide to refer to when making travel decisions. It will save time during the booking process, and you won’t have to ask your manager so many questions.

What to include in a travel policy

A travel policy should consist of everything that you want employees to know AND be accountable for. Remember your travel policy will be enforceable, in case someone decides to go on a spending-spree and you need to address it with them. Travel policies look different from company to company, as travel can vary between different industries. Here is a core list of items that Corporate Traveller recommends each company consider for its travel policy.

Your Travel Management Company

Your travel policy should stipulate who you use as a Travel Management Company to ensure the consolidation of the travel program.

Jaclyn Reynolds advises “your TMC will guide you when setting up the travel policy, it’s their job to provide advice and templates to help. At Corporate Traveller we’re also fortunate enough to have great technology and Online Booking Tools that can be incorporated into the travel policy to ensure compliance from bookers and travellers.”

Preferred suppliers

Does your company have an agreement with an airline or accommodation supplier? This could impact the way travel is booked and when/where travellers depart from.

“Some companies have agreements with a set airline to access negotiated deals or benefits. If a traveller decides against using the preferred supplier, they will usually need to strongly justify why that was. So, expect questions if you go outside of the policy,” says Jaclyn Reynolds.

Travel Insurance

“For international trips, travel insurance is paramount as health care can be more expensive and scarcer in some parts of the world. It’s important to check if your company has a corporate travel insurance policy to cover anyone travelling, or whether you need to purchase individual cover for the trip,” Jaclyn Reynolds advises. To find out more about what travel insurance might suit your business read our Guide to Travel Insurance for Business Travellers.

Flight bookings (Class and Price)

While it might be tempting to book business class (who wouldn’t want to), domestic business class flights are usually three-times the cost of economy class. If you’re on a plane for 1-2 hours, is that really worth it? Travel policies outline which class of flight you can purchase and what prices you need to stay under. Jaclyn Reynolds suggests “a lot of our Corporate Traveller customers opt for the ‘best price of the day’ as the preferred fare. We find that for long-haul flights some clients do allow their staff to select Premium Economy or Business class for flights over 10 hours. It ranges from customer to customer though and according to their travel budgets.”

Reimbursable and non-reimbursable expenses

“This is a really key one, you’d be surprised how many first-time business travellers don’t know they can get certain things reimbursed. Things like reasonable costs for meals (leave the Sydney Opera House dinner for one of your leisure trips) to laundry if you’re on a longer trip. On the flip side, we also find some travellers try to over-claim expenses but things like clothing or toiletry purchases, a haircut or massage, or minibar costs are usually excluded, and you’ll have to pay for them yourself,” says Jaclyn Reynolds. The travel policy will outline clearly what you can and can’t claim as an expense.

Steps to creating a travel policy

There are nine simple steps to creating a travel policy for your business. At Corporate Traveller our expert staff are here to guide you through the process. Contact us today to discuss your options.

  1. Select a Travel Management Company to assist with your travel policy.
  2. Define what’s important to your business and involve Finance, Procurement, and HR.
  3. Identify any existing partnerships or preferred supplier agreements.
  4. Identify any travel budgets or limits for trips.
  5. Define the expense and receipts management process.
  6. Write it all down.
  7. Distribute to staff.
  8. Hold staff accountable.
  9. Review the policy every 6-12 months.

Communicating the travel policy to staff

The travel policy should be distributed to all staff and stored somewhere easily accessible, like the intranet or your Online Booking Tool. Change management is a significant element of implementing or changing a travel policy, and your dedicated Account Manager or Business Leader can guide you through this process to help make the change as pain free as possible. Your dedicated Travel Manager will then support the mandating of the policy on a day-to-day basis when booking travel, to ensure travellers don’t try to push the boundaries.

“The most successful travel programs and policies are where senior management lead by example. So, it must be cascaded from senior management down,” Jaclyn Reynolds.

Companies have the option to have a formal, written travel policy and/or a one-page visual style travel policy. Download an example of Corporate Traveller’s one-page travel policy document.

“We’ve found great success for our customers when they use the one-page document. It’s still important to have the full document accessible by employees, but the one-pager answers the quick questions they’ll need to know,” Jaclyn Reynolds.

Get started today

Looking to create a travel policy? Having the support of a Corporate Traveller Expert is key for this process. Corporate Traveller is here to guide you, drive the policy, and help to educate your travellers on what the policy is and ensure it is mandated. Corporate Traveller helps each of our customers with creating a travel policy as part of our onboarding process. Contact us today to get started.